Provocative artist Kurt Gebauer turns 80

'Caterpillar of early capitalism'

Czech sculptor, painter, teacher, and lifelong fighter for better public space celebrates his 80th birthday on August 18. His work can be found in many public places in Prague and beyond.

'Caterpillar of early capitalism' | Photo: Klára Stejskalová,  Radio Prague International

A 10-metre-high work by Kurt Gebauer, which appeared this year on Prague’s Vítězné náměstí, is meant to symbolise the “caterpillar of early capitalism” in the Czech Republic.

Sculptor and Prague 6 resident Gebauer designed the work in 1997 in response to the period’s "bad mood", a term coined by former president Václav Havel to describe the evaporation of post-communist-era euphoria among the country’s citizens.

The caterpillar is located on the same spot where a statue of Lenin was removed 30 years ago. It is not his only provocative work.

"It is not only art connoisseurs or snobs who meet in the public space, but mainly ordinary people. They walk by and are either attracted or annoyed. The sculptures help them vent their aggression when people discuss them, and that's a good thing," says Gebauer, a long-time professor at the Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design in Prague, who was a neighbour of Václav Havel’s in Střešovice.

Heart for Václav Havel | Photo: Jolana Nováková,  Czech Radio

He dedicated a heart-shaped monument to him at the National Theatre piazzetta. Also well-known are Gebauer's Dwarfs in Vojanovy Sady and his Bohemian Pond, featuring sculptures of women with water spraying from their heads and mouths.

Gebauer uses unusual materials: textiles, fibreglass and rough stone. He has always been interested in real people and life, which is why he likes to beautify the public space, and in teaching, most recently at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen.

Kurt Gebauer | Photo: Marina Feltlová,  Czech Radio